Embracing Pharmacy Curricula to Meet Society’s Needs


There are many opportunities for students in the pharmacy curricula to learn about urban underserved practice learning competencies.

There are many opportunities for students in the pharmacy curricula to learn about urban underserved practice learning competencies, according to a session at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy virtual 2020 meeting.

Andy Traynor, MD, Concordia University of Wisconsin, began the session with an overview of a paper that outlined student learning competencies for urban undeserved practice using the Delphi process. Using a study called “Medical Students Attitude Towards the Underserved,” researchers examined more than 4 years of the relation of unstructured experiences and students’ attitudes toward the underserved.

According to Traynor, the results showed that although pharmacy students’ attitudes stayed constant over the observed years, medical students’ scores and attitudes saw a decrease toward serving underserved populations.

This information has helped many pharmacy schools focus on providing students with a curriculum that shows the advantages and disadvantages of working in these areas. “Learning, growing, and having positive experiences in local context of where we meet our patients and provide patient care is extremely important,” Traynor said.

James Lokken, PharmD, emphasized the significant difference based on our socioeconomic status on how long populations are expected to live, which can affect pharmacies in many ways. “Depending on where you were born, raised and live, it can account for up to a 12-year difference in your life expectancy,” Lokken said.

Lokken provided a few examples of how Concordia University of Wisconsin incorporates underserved learning competencies at his university to educate their students on these topics.

For example, he mentioned how students can participate at the City on a Hill non-profit clinic in Milwaukee, in which 30% of the patients are homeless. This helps the students provide direct patient care to the patients outside of the classroom setting. Another example Lokken mentioned was the Hunger Task Force Simulation, in which students participate in a 1.5 hour simulation on food insecurity.

For Chris Johnson, PharmD, MEd, BCACP, associate professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), the more experiential classes at UAMS focus on real-life situations and scenarios for the students.

For example, other than financials, one of the social determinants of health Johnson emphasized for his students is non-English speakers and literature. An activity he has found crucial for his students is providing a handout written in Spanish and a handout in Swahili to attempt to interpret the proper treatments.

Further, Johnson hands out medication regimen labels translated to German and placed on Rx bottles with M&Ms to further challenge his students. He has found that activities such as these have been labeled as “eye-opening” for his students, since it forces them to examine underserved patients’ circumstances and how pharmacists can help address health inequities.


Johnson C, Lokken J, Traynor A. Dire Straits to Altered Fates: Enhancing Pharmacy Curricula to Meet Society’s Needs. Presented at: American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual 2020 Meeting; July 13-31, 2020. https://virtualpharmed2020.aacp.org/meetings/virtual/u3adH8oLo52P3XWK3. Accessed July 28, 2020.

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